A Scroll Down the Roaring Fork River, Part Three ASPEN

Come Along

Take A

SCROLL

D O W N  T H E

Roaring Fork River

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p a r t   t h r e e

A S P E N

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Part One HEADWATERS / Part Two ABOVE ASPEN / Part Four BELOW ASPEN

Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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In part two of this little scrolling tour we saw how the Roaring Fork River shed the frothy, turbulent, manic energy of the headwaters and took on the characteristics of a waterway coming to terms with its adolescence thrusting itself through jagged rocks one moment with a mad, chaotic frenzy; only to fall asleep amongst a swath of beaver dams the next. This time around however its a much more grown up and mature river we find cutting its way through Aspen.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Seldom does a river so wild and free as the Roaring Fork brush so close to a city center, so close in fact that at one point it almost runs into Main street (Highway 82). You’d never know it though as both city and river keep very much to themselves. From town you’d never even know there was a river down there – and from the river’s point of view, even when tumbling right through the heart of Aspen, barely a trace of civilization can be seen from along its leafy tree-lined banks.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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We begin this tour at Herron Park. From the parking lot a gorgeous hike awaits. Just how long of a hike you embark upon is entirely up to you as from here the excellent Rio Grande Trail will lead you all the way to Glenwood Springs if you feel so inclined. It’s about 8 miles to the Woody Creek Tavern, 8¼ to my studio. Today though we will terminate this portion of the scrolling tour at Slaughter House bridge, the point where the Roaring Fork bids farewell to Aspen.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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From Herron Park begins the magnificent Rio Grande Trail. We take this wonderful boardwalk of a bridge, and in the process are rewarded with the first of many spectacular mid-river views.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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From these pictures its really difficult to decipher just what is river and what is floodwater, for at the time of my hike the Roaring Fork was reaching the height of its seasonal run off. For reasons quite convoluted, and having to do with exceptionally heavy spring rains, combined with a legal tiff that has several of the cross-continental divide tunnels closed, the river was running a full three times recent seasonal averages.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Huge foaming waves churn the rapid water at points where, in the height of summer, small children quite safely paddle. But no one is paddling, or going anywhere near these treacherous waters on this day.

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Roaring Fork River, John Denver Memorial Park, Aspen

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Not far into the hike, completely unannounced (as we are sneaking in through the back door as it were) we stumble across the John Denver Memorial Park.

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Roaring Fork River, John Denver Memorial Park, Aspen

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A portion of the river diverts through the gardens and within moments we are engulfed in a pristine nature reserve. No admission. No fuss. Just trails leading off this way and that, and very, very beautiful it is too.

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Roaring Fork River, John Denver Memorial Park, Aspen

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Leaving this marvelous riparian zone behind us we reconnect with a river barely acknowledging the city that loves it so.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Bridges appear at regular intervals in all forms, shapes and sizes. This one was built to serve the huge ‘Smuggler’ mine. Normally however the water isn’t brackish, nor is it almost lapping the underside of the support beams, but these are hardly normal times!

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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The Rio Grande Trail serves as an excellent point from which to explore the many superbly maintained footpaths that branch out into the wilderness surrounding Aspen; the Hunter Creek Trail ranking as perhaps the local’s favorite.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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The path, marked in red on the above map continues to hug the river but the road veers up and over McClain Flats, reuniting with the Roaring Fork at the entrance to Woody Creek. But for those lacking a reliable sense of direction the City of Aspen puts considerable effort in keeping anyone from getting lost.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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By this point the Roaring Fork sweeps over broad shoals in a most mature fashion. Many a rapid will interrupt its journey, as we witness in the next and final installment, but for now the Roaring Fork tumbles on with an unbridled confidence it retains right up to the point where it collides with the Colorado River at the spa town of Glenwood Springs.

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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and now

the slideshow

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Roaring Fork River, Aspen

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Part One HEADWATERS / Part Two ABOVE ASPEN / Part Four BELOW ASPEN

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Thanks for visiting martincooney.com

I hope you will join me for the final installment of this four part series when we leave Aspen behind us and head towards Woody Creek.

Author, Roaring Fork River, Headwaters, Lost Man Trail.

“Cheers”

Μ ∀ R Τ I Ν

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for river lovers everywhere

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